Details of black money probe not to be made public
The exact quantum of black money is not known in the country though the different estimates range between USD 500 billion to USD 1,400 billion with a study by Global Financial Integrity estimating the illegal money outflow to be at USD 462 billion. On October 15, a delegation of officials of the Ministry of Finance led by Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das had visited Switzerland for discussions with Swiss Finance and Tax Authorities regarding exchange of information in tax matters which were termed as substantive and useful in a Finance Ministry press release.
An application was filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act seeking copies of letters sent to or received from Switzerland and Germany relating to the black money probe. The applicant also sought to provide copy of letter received from Swiss government inviting officials from here for discussion on tax evasion issues to that country.
In a reply to the RTI Application, the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Finance Ministry informed that it was obtaining information regarding Indians having accounts in foreign banks from concerned nations. However, the PIO declined to disclose information on exchange of correspondence among India, Swiss and German authorities in connection with the black money investigation on the ground of national security and confidentiality citing Section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; and 8(1)(f) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information received in confidence from foreign Government; of the RTI Act. The PIO replied that "Since the information regarding Indians having accounts in foreign banks which are being obtained from foreign authorities under the prevailing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAA) are confidential as per the treaty provisions and the same are exempt from disclosure.”
The country does not have any official assessment on the quantum of black money in public domain and though a study was conducted on quantum of black money stashed by Indians in foreign banks through National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM), the report is yet to be placed before the Parliament. Earlier RTI applications seeking copies of the report under the RTI Act have been turned down citing exemption clauses.